Put Heart Health on the Menu

What’s cooking? That’s an important question when it comes to heart health. Eating the right kinds of foods may help lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Eating heart-healthy doesn’t mean you have to scrap your favorite foods. But you may want to focus on a healthy eating pattern overall, tipping the balance of your choices in favor of your heart. To get started:

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Aim to fill half your plate with different types of produce.

Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Try low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt and cheese instead of whole milk and full-fat dairy. Full-fat dairy products are high in saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol — a heart disease risk.

Go for whole grains. Choices include whole-wheat breads and pastas, oatmeal, and brown rice.

Cook with healthy, unsaturated fats. Use a little liquid vegetable oil, such as canola or olive oil, instead of butter or lard.

Cut back on sodium. Sodium can boost blood pressure — and table salt isn’t the only source. At grocery stores, compare food labels, and choose products with the lowest amounts of sodium. Flavor foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.

Choose lean meats. Remove any visible fat. Try baking or broiling instead of frying.

Make it meatless sometimes. Build a main dish — such as chili or a casserole — around beans, tofu or lentils.

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American Heart Association; Office on Women’s Health